Manama: Five Saudi women pilots have obtained licences by the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) that allows them to work as captains on Saudi Arabian Airlines aircraft.

The issuance of licenses to Saudi women is part of GACA’s drive to empower Saudi women to work in the aviation sector in line with the objectives of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

Although around 500 Saudi women are employed by Saudia, the kingdom’s national carrier, mainly in the financial and IT departments and the reservation section, none of them are pilots.

Yasmeen Mohammad Al Maimani who made history by becoming in 2014 the second Saudi woman to receive a commercial pilot license from GACA, last year said she had high hopes for the opportunity to fly a plane for Saudia.

“My greatest dream was to become a pilot and my family fully supported me,” Yasmeen said. “My high school average was high and I could join some of the best universities to study medicine or architecture. However, the dream of sitting in a cockpit and soaring high in the sky was a potent and sweet dream that truly overwhelmed me.”

The family went along and they supported Yasmeen in all ways as she headed to Jordan where she joined a private aviation academy.

“I obtained my private pilot licence after one year and went back home to Saudi Arabia where my attempts to get recruited by an airliner failed. “I took up an administrative position in Rabigh Wings Aviation Academy and I became the head of pilots, but I did not fly any plane.”

Determined to make her dream come true, she continued with her studies and training.

Yasmeen said that she received an offer from a US flight academy to be their representative in the Arabian Gulf.

“I accepted the offer and they later gave me half scholarship to study for a commercial pilot licence. I accepted the offer and I was able to finish my studies one a half years and obtain the licence. I returned home in 2013 upon my graduation and the GACA endorsed my licence. I was looking forward to piloting a Saudia plane after I was duly certified by the Saudi authorities to fly a plane, but I am still waiting.”

Women in Saudi Arabia made history on June 23 when they were allowed to drive in the kingdom. Several other measures to empower them politically, economically and socially as part of an overhaul of the conservative society, may seem them allowed to pilot planes soon.